Thursday, February 14, 2019

Some Days...

Some days there are flowers and some days they are forgotten. Today is a flower day.

Happy Valentine's Day. Love someone today. Throw a kiss to the bird on the tree or pat your neighbor's dog or kiss someone...anyone.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Old Ladies Just Want to Have Fun

When I was young and with toddlers I lived in Indonesia. I am sure I have mentioned this a few times before on this blog. I had a maid/washerwoman, a cook, and a yard/nightwatchman. I did not have any appliances so everything in the house was manual labor.  Also, culturally we were supposed to hire servants because our wealth in the community was too obvious and the U.S. wanted a better profile for its civil servants.  It all balanced out because I truly needed them.  Shopping for food took a half day three days a week!

It took me a short time to adjust to having strangers in my house, perhaps an unusually short time because I am not uncomfortable around people I employ if I trust them and like them. I am an introvert, but when you employ someone you can see them as often or "unoften" as you like.  My cook was Muslim and my maid was Catholic and the night watchman, Jaga Malam, was a young good looking man in his late teens who seemed so sweet I could eat him. I must have been a good employer as they all stayed with me for the two years and we became friends. (Other Americans had trouble hanging on to their staff and I think one of the husbands had a "hand" problem and one of the wives was a perfectionist bitch.  Another family were Christian missionaries and refused to have anyone not Christian in their home, which narrowed the servant pool greatly.)  God knows I need all the various religions I can get and I thought about them all.

Anyway...where was I going with this?  Oh, yes.  There was/is a lot of poverty in Indonesia.  It was not unusual to have beggars come to our door offering odd things to sell for money.  It was not unusual for me to see a woman in rags and in one case stark naked, offering an empty rice bowl for food.  I was young and very busy trying to teach at the mission school and raise a family and adjust to living outside my homeland, therefore I was able to hand some money over and shelve the images to the back of my mind before they touched my heart and soul.  I grew up with a family that lived pay check to pay check, so perhaps I was hardened to the hardness of life.

Somewhere when I had passed middle age, my children were out on their own and we began to live an upper-middle-class lifestyle (or maybe it is just middle class), I started to see such things as poverty with more insight.  When I travel now, I truly enjoy the food, the music, the art, the history, but I hate seeing poverty.  It grabs me like a clawed hand and throws me back against the wall.  It grabs my gut and shakes it roughly.  I become angry at the injustice of life across the globe.  I am a liberal in the purest sense that I believe most people want an honest and fair living and the prevention of that goal is usually due to large, wealthy, powerful corporations that lie.  As an example here is an incident that happened in Santarem, Brazil where Cargill has left a polluted imprint and poverty is tremendous and Cargill has not come through on its promises to raise the standard of living.

I have burned into my brain the sorrowful face of a Brazilian man in his 40s or 50s who offered to take us around his town on his bicycle cart.  The rain was drenching as we left an elaborate cultural school dance show and we just wanted to get back to our boat and get dry and sit in a stuffed chair on the foredeck and catch our breath and clear our heads from the sugary rum drinks they had passed out before the show.  

The man was small and dressed all in dark grays as he held in front of his chest a sign in English offering tours.  My husband speaks enough Spanish to explain to him that we could not go because of the rain.  He was still standing near the wall with the sign as we stood in line and pulled out IDs to get back on the cruise boat.  I asked my husband to go offer him some money...enough for a ride, enough to feed his children, enough to make me wash guilt from my mind that evening.  I hated doing that because he wanted to work, he did not want charity.  I knew that.  He accepted, but I could not watch his face and turned away and do not know if he was relieved, embarrassed, or reflected numbness.

Would he tell his wife that he got one customer in spite of the rain?  What work did he do when the Cruise ship was not in town?  Why did life rob him of his dignity in this way?

That evening we ordered a lobster dinner to celebrate the nearing of the end of our trip.  The lobster tasted great.  My guilt did not overcome my enjoyment of the meal.  Lobster is still an expensive ritual in my life.

BUT, I just want to go on a trip to exotic areas of the world and have fun.  I do not want to bring home so much reality.  His face stays with me to this day.  This fall I am going to China!

Saturday, February 09, 2019

How Many Face Lifts Can You Have?

There is an actress who used to be on a U.S soap opera.  Her name is Susan Lucci. I used to watch soap operas when I was stuck at home with babies in diapers, and although I did not  watch her show, she was very famous. These shows were a compulsive distraction for many housewives stuck at home and I am guessing  they still are. The people were all beautiful and protected from aging, except for the token octogenarian with money and power who was either well loved or extremely feared. The women wore  the height of fashion whether it was a tennis outfit or  ball gown.  The sets were usually rooms in luxurious mansions.  The lives of the characters were always exciting and dramatic and unusually melodramatic in their multiple love affairs.  Anyway Ms. Lucci was the evil seductress for decades. Her character was the one you loved to hate.  She never aged and was always glamorous for her 31 years on the show becoming the highest paid soap opera star and finally winning an Emmy in 1999.

This week she was in a fashion show to promote heart health. She is 72 (her birthday only a few days from mine) and has had serious heart issues. Her close call has motivated her to be an advocate for living a lifestyle for heart health. She was layered in some off the shoulder red dress which hugged her 110 pound body frame with flowing layers of cloth turning her into a brunette Barbie. She still wears high heels and somehow her feet went out from under her and she hit the runway with her bottom. The photos of the incident are truly delightful as she looks as if someone had surprised her with a fun ride. She does not break her stride or sense of grace and got a standing ovation. She is 72 and looks 40 if you don't zoom in too closely and notice all the lifting.  She seems like a truly nice and normal person even being married to her first husband for decades.

I just strikes me oddly how we  are the same age,  took  totally different  paths in our lives  and she looks  like she could be a daughter that  I had early in my life.  Better living  through chemistry?

Friday, February 01, 2019

Back in July

Cleaning and organizing photos is a great way to stumble upon fun memories. Back in July hubby and I went to Washington, D.C. to the Building Museum. It is not a public venue but private and supported by a professional association and you must pay a fee to go inside. They have some very interesting displays and I wish I went more often. The rest of the museum, like most museums, has various rooms addressing issues with habitat, history, and relation to buildings. Maybe someday I will post about that aspect because it is certainly just as interesting if not more so.  For more on the museum go here.   The temporary exhibit held in the grand hall on the day I was there was certainly compelling.

Above is a description of the primary areas...mostly for children. Below is the living room every child would like to have!

In some of the areas, there were challenges like this one above with black marbles and a plastic tube maze. The whole exhibit was mostly in black and white!

There was an area for even more fun and the toddlers took advantage.  I did blur faces a little as a courtesy to those who were in front of the lens.

Note, the mom/guardian is taking her own photo here.

Lots of room for fun.  This area above looked like a destroyed building.

The building is a classic and when this room is cleared it is used for grand events.  My daughter's company holds some formal parties here.  She has seen it in its true glory.  I will go again.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Wading In and Out

My biggest cheerleader is my husband...this is both a good thing and a really bad thing. (Flattery will get you not very far with me because I tend to be a realist and know that people are just being nice...or they want something from me.)

Hubby is a mixture of both.  He sees my talents, efforts, and energy through rose-colored glasses. He works with a group of community-minded folks that have passion, some have money and even a very few have connections and power. They want to save their little portion of the bay through restoration efforts. This also includes an education component and they have been able to contact at least FIVE schools from elementary, to high school to vocational tech, to help participate in these efforts.  Recently, after some arm twisting on hubby's part telling me I worked so well with children,  I volunteered at one of the elementary schools to help a STEM class with hands-on work with data collection on oyster shells counting oyster spat that about 6 adult volunteers and teachers brought to the class.  The kids were intuitive, smart and well-behaved and it was a fun afternoon.  Not sure what they really learned as scientific data collection is a long term effort in reality, but we found a lot of interesting wildlife on the oyster shells when we removed them from the aquarium.  An elderly lady, my age, ran the effort and did a great job.

Oysters we sometimes eat over the winter that hang out in cages under our dock...the only photo I have of oysters.
Well, the woman who was coordinating the effort emailed me the next day and asked if I would like to be on a "steering committee" toward this effort.  I emailed back that I was NOT a meeting person, but if the meetings were short and few I would come.  I have now attended two that last over an hour and were two weeks apart.  The first meeting had about 8 people and the agenda was somewhat all over the place as we had industry folks, fishermen, biologists, and some hands-on aquaculture guys.  They had projects and plans like an octopus has legs.  I took notes, asked questions and left at the end.  This effort includes building and deploying "reef balls" with attached oyster spat throughout the bay while training the students!  They do have money for cement, wood, a large trailer and are now collecting tools, etc.

The second meeting was last night and plans got a bit more solidified and filled up a calendar for the next few months.  They (only five attended this time) were suggesting we needed a chair for this group.  Everyone (some still worked full time) were shifting eyes and were too busy.  They looked at me and one suggested if I had time.  Well, I was not born yesterday, and I immediately explained that I was coming way late to this group, did not have the experience and connections they needed, and would be willing to volunteer at events, but NOT coordinate anything.  I looked directly at the gal that had invited me, an elderly woman, one of those dynamic movers and shakers.  She had the honesty to look down and make some notes. (I am sure hubby had praised me to her!)

Hubby and she ended up being co-chairs.  Hubby has NO time for this, but that is his problem.

There was an after meeting of a much larger group (fishermen) to which hubby belongs, so I took my car and headed home.  While watching the last episode of Hinterland, hubby returned and talked about someone at the second meeting.  

He asked if I remembered a person who joined the group late and sat across the table and I said, "No."  Well, this person is a really good nature artist and donates lovely water bird paintings to the auction/money raising effort that the fishermen/conservation group holds annually.  I have seen them.  I guess the fellow was out that morning with his camera trying to get some good bird photos as references for his artwork and came back without anything useful and complained to my husband.

Hubby immediately told him we had Canvas Back ducks in the river last week and that I got some good great photos.  Not true, the photos were barely in focus and far away.  The artist was excited and asked for my email and if I would mail him my photos for his work...OMG! to throw out a valley girl expression.  Did I say hubby exaggerates my talents?

This morning I went through a bunch of waterbird photos taken over the years and will email the chap two of them explaining that as he gets to know my husband better he will realize that he exaggerates a bit.

This is the photo that I took last week.

Below is a better photo that I took many years ago.

 (To add insult to injury, last week my DSLR broke and I had to send it out for an expensive repair.  I put my telephoto on another smaller older DSLR that I own and in a few hours the telephoto broke!  In all fairness, this equipment is over 12 years old and while I am careful with it, it does see a lot of outdoor use.)

Thursday, January 24, 2019


Hubby and fishing pals returned two days early from the great Everglades swamp. They caught some fish (didn't bring me any) saw alligators and dolphin and got to sleep under the stars as this was truly camping out. They had two canoes and one kayak all pulled by a small motor, so with navigation by maps and GPS they covered over 100 miles of the islands going from fresh water to salt water. I think they had fun, although this would not be my cup of swamp water even if warmed before a cozy fire. They came back two days early because the weather was nippier than usual...yes, even in Southern Florida.

Fortunately, I had food for dinner and we ate a new recipe of marinated herbed chicken wings that I was trying.  This dinner was all prepared after I got my kitchen back from their unpacking!!

These photos above were taken after hubby had done most of his cleaning!  I know.  The two men that went with hubby are people he has known for decades, one was a student working under him in Hawaii and the other was a high school chum.  The fourth fellow who is the oldest of all had a serious heart incident prior to the trip and thus could not go as he has gone before, but you see him standing below wishing them well.  These trips do get precious as time moves on.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Re-Classify History

I firmly believe that we must exercise the brain as well as the body as we age. Being more honest, I have always loved being a student and liked school and am always looking for learning experiences.

Hubby and I are watching a Great Courses series called "The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales." It is probably a bit of a slog to those who live in those countries, but it is a particularly enjoyable experience to tour from our armchair. A tour that is not just lovely drone photos of famous structures and areas, but also includes a bit of history, architecture and personal experience from the teacher.

A Castle I took a photo of  in Ireland back in 2014.
While watching one of these digital downloads it occurred to me how those of us across the pond romanticize the castles and ancient churches that are going to ruins.  We are lascivious about the people who lead these times, how they dressed, what they ate, who they loved and how they used their powers to change history while moving through these castles and churches.  We rarely think about those who died building them.

A famous church in Ireland, photo taken in 2014.
As I pause the video, I realize that these castles and churches only existed because there was an oligarchy that took advantage of the poorer uneducated classes of citizens demanding a tax from limited resources.  Those citizens (perhaps like our President's supporters) knew their place in society and gave fealty to the oligarchy, and in turn, might look down on other more poor sinning outsiders seeking safety, to reassure themselves they were not at the bottom of the totem pole of resources after all.

Democracies do not lend themselves to castles.  Democratic religions do not lend themselves to preachers with jets and palatial homes or entire protected cities with secret bank accounts and an ability to live by a different set of rules than their worshipers.

Don't get me wrong.   I do not denigrate the wealthy from enjoying their hard-earned wealth...I just want to make sure it was earned on their own backs,  otherwise, I believe in a more socialized distribution of the wealth that is acquired.